High and Low

High and Low

1963

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

High and Low is a police procedural crime drama that is loosely based on Ed McBain’s 1959 novel, King’s RansomHigh and Low is a masterpiece. Expertly controlled pacing and cinematography paint vivid picture of class divisions. High and Low is an entertaining film and an incisive social commentary.

Must see.

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M

M

Directed by Fritz Lang

1931

M is a German movie about a serial killer. Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M is expertly plotted with near-flawless acting, music, and cinematography. M is a technical masterpiece and an insightful comment on the 1930s German environment that Lang would leave in few years’ time.

Would see.

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

2017

Logan Lucky is a heist film that follows three siblings who plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The film’s ambitions are on a far smaller scale than the theft planned by its protagonists, but Steven Soderbergh shares their commitment and attention to detail; Logan Lucky has modest aims and a nearly flawless execution. It’s effortless fun to watch.

Would see.

Good Time

Good Time

Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie

2017

Good Time is a crime-drama about two brothers who rob a bank and weather the aftermath. The film is paced well and Robert Pattinson’s performance is riveting. Though the tone is far bleaker than its wildly deceptive title suggests, Good Time’s specificity and emotional nuance pull it away from miserabilism, and it ultimately strikes a strong and thoughtful note.

Would see.

In Bruges

In Bruges

Directed by Martin McDonagh

In Bruges is an English language black comedy set in Bruges. In Bruges is clever, but sometimes too clever. The jokes are consistently funny, but sometimes descend into mean-spiritedness, and the movie sometimes threatens to veer into nihilism.

Would see.

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water

Directed by David Mackenzie

2016

Hell or High Water is a neo-western crime drama that follows two brothers who rob banks. Blending clichés of westerns, West Texas, bank robbing, and crime thrillers, some scenes work better than others. And the social commentary alternates between incisive and broad often. Hell or High Water, though, is always full of wit, life, and energy, and that, always, is enough.

Would see.

Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler

Directed by Dan Gilroy

2014

Nightcrawler is a thriller that follows a thief who begins shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a successfully unnerving performance as the sociopathic main character. The film’s tone, though, fluctuates wildly. The social comment is derivative and generally aimed at easy targets. Nightcrawler has a lot to say, but little of it is meaningful.

Would not see.

Vertigo

Vertigo

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

1958

Vertigo, based on Boileau-Narcejac’s 1954 novel, D’entre les morts, is a psychological thriller about an acrophobic former police detective hired by an acquaintance as a private investigator. Vertigo is well-paced, well-shot, and well-acted, though some of the effects hold up better than others. The film, fittingly, leaves one mildly uncertain of what to make of anyone and less sure as one peers deeper.

Would see.

The Bad Sleep Well

The Bad Sleep Well

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

1960

The Bad Sleep Well is a Japanese language thriller about revenge and corporate corruption. The film is occasionally sentimental and the female characters are thinly sketched, but it is still a great film. The Bad Sleep Well’s plot moves both unexpectedly and inevitably to its stark conclusion and pointed social criticism.

Must see.

The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

1974

The Godfather Part II, partially based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel, The Godfather, is both a prequel and a sequel to Coppola’s 1972 film of the same name. The Godfather Part II has all of the well-crafted dialogue and well-framed shots of its predecessor, but lacks some of its tight pacing and thematic coherence. The prequel segments, particularly, tracking the rise of a young Vito Corleone, are not given enough time to fully develop as a meaningful complement to the film’s sequel narrative, following Vito’s son, Michael, and essentially end up being diversionary interruptions to the main story as a result.

Would see.